Driver Re-education specialist Clare McLaughlin guiding a driver on our DriveSafety CDS 200
For over 25 years, Clare McLaughlin, OT, a certified driver rehabilitation specialist, has been teaching new drivers, evaluating senior drivers and re-educating drivers who need adaptive equipment through Bacharach’s Driver Program.
We asked Clare to tell us about the driver re-education program at Bacharach.
Why is Bacharach’s Driver Program so important?
Bacharach’s Driver program helps clients of all ages achieve the highest level of independence. Whether it’s a new driver or a driver who has regained their driving ability, their whole world opens up once they get their license. They become inspired to go beyond the familiarity of home and school. Having the ability to explore other places and meet new people also generates work and other opportunities.
The independence that comes with driving enables people to accomplish routine tasks such as traveling to work, childcare, appointments, shopping, or places of worship. The ability to get from one place the next without having to rely on others is an important part of being independent in today’s society.
Who is Bacharach’s Driver Re-education Program for?
The program is good for four different kinds of drivers.
1. First time drivers age 16 and up who have a history of developmental disabilities, brain injury, spinal injury, visual impairments, amputation or other challenge
2. Licensed drivers who have a medical diagnosis such as stroke, brain injury, arthritis and spinal cord injury
3. Senior drivers 65 or older whose family or physician is concerned that driving skills have begun to fade due to age-related vision changes, cognitive changes or decreased reaction time
4. NJ Motor Vehicle Commission drivers sent to us after fender benders to ensure they are safe to continue driving
How does Bacharach’s Driver Re-education Program evaluate drivers?
1. Pre-Driver Evaluation – Clinical tests are performed inside the hospital to measure a patient’s vision, motor skills, reaction time, and cognitive skills to ensure that is safe to be in the driver’s seat.
2. Behind the Wheel Training Evaluation/Training – This measures the client’s ability to independently and safely perform basic driving skills in a variety of road situations utilizing the program’s driver education vehicle. Patients must demonstrate their driving abilities on residential and two-lane roads, highways and in shopping centers. They are also tested by parking, parallel parking, three-point turns and reversing.
3. NJ Motor Vehicle Commission Road Test – Patients are cleared to participate in this test once they have successfully completed the behind-the-wheel sessions.
What kind of peace of mind does this give drivers and their families?
Driving independence is not just about getting to the destination. With freedom comes flexibility and less stress. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting to work around other people’s schedules and it can make people feel like a burden.
One of the toughest aspects of my job is telling a client that he or she failed the evaluation or that I have to recommend that they retire from driving. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it never gets old seeing the joy, relief and confidence that each person who passes our program expresses as they hold the keys to their future independence.